For the last few years this post has been a summary of the year and the grand totals of my books read, words written, and so forth. And if I had written this a few months ago, it would have been the same. Unfortunately, the latter part of 2013 went rather off the rails and so I already know that were I to count up the number of books read, words written, reviews posted, etc. they would all be a lower number than last year. I went quiet. And this is why…
The first half of the year was going fine. I frantically finished off my MA coursework and waited for the results. I settled into my new job and reconnected with old friends. I graduated. I enjoyed a glorious summer and found love for England that I had not had for many years. I swam, I socialised and found myself really enjoying life.
But it was not to last. We all have darkness in our past, things that have happened to ourselves and to those we love. Some are worse than others. Some leave far more of a shadow within us. Some we shake off. Some we pretend are not there and carry on relatively unaffected. Some lie seemingly dormant until we are at our weakest, and then emerge to taint the happiness we have found.
I’ve never been one to willingly or openly talk about my feelings, never wanted to burden others with my darkness, never wanted to spend any more time dwelling on the bad than is necessary. But towards the end of this year, it caught me. Once again, but for the first time in a long time, I find myself unable to sleep peacefully, agitated with everything around me, losing any love or connection with this world, and the terrible things that happen in it to people who do not deserve it.
But this is not a blog to further depress me, or anyone who might read it. It is not a blog to highlight my disappointment with all the goals I didn’t achieve this year, all the records I didn’t break, and all the things I didn’t get done. Because to walk that path would be to never emerge from it.
No. This is a blog to kick myself up the arse as I have many times before. My darkness will always be there. I cannot change the past, nor can anything I do now erase or heal anything that happened in it. But I can remind myself that I am alive. I chose this. On those days when I didn’t want to wake up and face the next one, I did. On those days when I felt no desire for anything and took no pleasure in anything, I eventually did. And I will again.
2013 may have gone off the rails towards the end. There may have been a lot of hiding from the world and self-soothing with alcohol. Late nights and ill days. But haven’t I been here before, and survived? Haven’t many of us? And we are still here, pressing on, day by day, finding little things to cheer us, because to give in would be too easy, too weak and above all else, too selfish.
It was not an easy year, and no doubt the next one will have its fair share of challenges. But through it all there will always be good books to read, good coffee to drink and beautiful places to visit. There will always be people who are willing to listen if you let them. And there will always be a brighter day on the horizon.
So I put a difficult year behind me, and I welcome the next one with hope. Hope that I, and others, will be able to emerge from their shadows once again and bask in the warmth that is life, and art, and beauty. Beneath those shadows lies a strength at the heart of all of us. The challenge is to find it.
So my wish for 2014 is that we all find that strength, and live to spend another day in the light.